Daily Archives: January 13, 2018

Mathematically Bent Theater

Last night Colin Adams and the Mobiusbandaid Players performed four fantastic skits to a standing-room-only audience. The skits are a must-see JMM event!

The first was a tale of thievery among mathematicians in the old wild west mining finite fields for theorems.

The hero (Andrea Young, left), a horse (Adam Boocher, right) and the villain (Richard Bedient, behind)

The villain tried to steal a theorem, unfortunately his horse bears the brunt of the retaliation.

There was a skit in which a family held an intervention for their pre-med son, who turned to math. And one where an editor and a reviewer conspired against an author. Finally, there was an address by the new president of the AMS, who promised to build a wall between the AMS and MAA offices in DC.

Colin Adams, “Make math great again! No more square roots… And from now on (A+B)^2 = A^2 + B^2.”

Potent quotables

Here are a few of my favorite “quotes” from the meetings so far (“”quotes”” instead of “quotes” because I did not write all of these down carefully, and so they are more like paraphrased/remembered versions of quotes).

“In mathematics, and more generally STEM, we teach to exclude. We teach in a way meant to weed people out of our courses, with the idea that only the “best” should survive. Math is not going to be fair and equitable until we change this culture.” Karen Saxe, AWM panel on Using mathematics in activism

“I don’t really buy into the idea of progress, although I will vote for it. What I really want to do is to burn it all down.” Piper Harron, AWM panel on Using mathematics in activism

AMS Education and Diversity Panel: (left to right) Helen Grundman, Edray Goins, Richard Laugesen, Richard McGehee, and Katrin Wehrheim.

“This is what I call the tragedy of the linear order. We think mathematicians are ranked linearly, like there’s a best mathematician, a second best mathematician, etc. We do this too with jobs. There is no such thing, and we must accept that.” Richard McGehee, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

“There is a difference between an adviser and a mentor. You need an adviser for your Ph.D., but you should also find a mentor.” Edray Goins, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

“We need some sort of database that records what percentage of students that are accepted into graduate programs actually pass their quals, and how many finish their Ph.D.” Katrin Wehrheim, AMS Education and Diversity Department Panel on Strategies for Diversifying Graduate Mathematics Programs

Enrique Trevino.

“Little know fact, although maybe known to many of you: Lagrange was actually Italian, not French. His name was Giuseppe Ludovico Lagrange, if I’m not mistaken.” Enrique Trevino, AMS Special Session on a Showcase of Number Theory at Liberal Arts Colleges. Some people nodded, but most people had their minds blown by this fact (myself included).

Out in Mathematics Panel (left to right): Juliette Bruce, Shelly Bouchat, Frank Farris, Ron Buckmire, Emily Riehl, and moderator Lily Khadjavi.

“I may look very well adjusted and happy, which I am, but most people don’t know that in the 80s I was very depressed — almost suicidal — because I felt so alone. I am here to tell you that it does get better.” Frank Farris, MAA panel on Out in Mathematics (co-sponsored by Spectra, the association for LGBTQ mathematicians).

“I just get a rush of adrenaline and then I speak my mind. It doesn’t always go very well. ” Emily Riehl, MAA panel on Out in Mathematics, when asked by moderator Lily Khadjavi about how she manages to be so brave.

And a bonus quote from my meeting with an editorial board I serve on. I saw what is possibly the best example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in math, when shown an excerpt of a response email to a paper rejection (a perfectly nice rejection, at that).

“I can tell your board is inept, because it is trivial to confirm the proof […] I am not surprised they are lazy and dismissive. My paper is the most brilliant paper ever written on the subject. […] Whoops, it’s the biggest blunder that mathematics has ever made, as a whole. This paper separates the men from the boys…” — Anonymous

Cat Cafe

If the frenzied environment of the JMM has got you flustered, perhaps a feline environment is what you need. I stumbled across The Cat Cafe on Google Maps and immediately recognized it as a game changer.

Game changer

I heard others had been escaping to the cafe and so I knew I had to go. I ran into a couple JMM attendees while there.

Tabatha, a post-doc at Purdue, has spent most of the JMM napping, but hopes to catch its tail end.

Tammy is tuckered after chasing down every string theory talk she could find.

Ernie forgot to secure funding to go to the JMM and tried to borrow my badge.

Schrodinger wasn’t sure he’d make it to the JMM and is glad to be attending. Here he is reflecting on category theory.

Wow. Everyone here is exhausted.

Not Ernie.

The Cat Cafe is open daily from 8:00-3:00.